Khaddam: The Syrian sun will rise again

publisher: إذاعة دويتشه فيله

Publishing date: 2006-01-09


The complete text of the private interview with Khaddam on Deutsche Welle radio.

Deutsche Welle: You called for a change in the Syrian regime. What is the alternative, given that both the current and previous regimes did not allow for genuine opposition to emerge?

Abdel Halim Khaddam: The alternative is the Syrian people, a people known for their history, vitality, and their concern for their country. Through a democratic system, they can be the alternative. When we say there is no alternative, is it conceivable that Syria remains ruled by a corrupt individual regime? Absolutely not.

But can Syria return to the era of coups?

What is required is not a military coup at all, and I reject the principle of change through military coups. No one in Syria wants that kind of change. Change must come from the people, and no one in Syria wants the military to be involved in politics again.

How do you envision this change, then?

Simply put, the Syrian people will assume their responsibilities and will be able to effect change through a general popular movement in Syria. This will happen because the Syrian people are suffering greatly economically and socially, facing external pressures, and enduring the humiliation of being deprived of even having a say in determining their destiny.

Are you advocating for civil disobedience in Syria?

This matter is not being discussed now. All these issues will be discussed among a number of Syrian leaders, and whatever they agree upon, we will work to implement.

How do you respond to accusations of your involvement in crimes and human rights violations in Syria?

I will publish my memoirs about Lebanon, and whoever has any specific accusations, let them state them to pinpoint a particular issue.

What about corruption in Lebanon, for example?

I challenge any Lebanese or Syrian to say that Abdel Halim Khaddam or any of his family members had any involvement in any financial, economic, or commercial affair in Lebanon. I challenge the allegations spread by Bashar al-Assad’s apparatus with the intention of defaming. I called for the formation of an impartial Arab auditing committee to examine corruption cases in Syria and elsewhere. If there is any file or indication related to me or any of my sons, I will take responsibility.

What is the situation of the Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons for years, especially after their existence was confirmed following visits by their families?

Be assured that I had no involvement in security matters in Lebanon. I was responsible politically, responsible for the process of national reconciliation, responsible for achieving reconciliation and negotiations between conflicting parties, for communications to stop the fighting, and communications to coordinate between Lebanese parties. As for security matters, I had no involvement in them whatsoever.

But among the reconciliations was the file of missing and detained Lebanese individuals?

This is not my responsibility. I told you that security matters were not within my realm. I recall having requested dozens of times that a list of names of detained Lebanese in Syria be disclosed. But as I said, the nature of the regime in Syria prevents politicians from dealing with security matters, and they cannot issue instructions to the security apparatus.

Based on your information, do you confirm the existence of these detainees?

In reality, and to be honest with myself, I don’t have that information.

It’s been said that you were certain of the Syrian regime’s involvement in the assassination of Hariri, and that’s why you chose this timing to leave Syria and stage what is called an overthrow of the regime?

Before I left Syria, there was a conference for the party, and I announced my resignation and the reasons for it. These reasons were my objections to the internal and external policies of Dr. Bashar al-Assad. The domestic policies had exhausted the country with poverty, unemployment, the dominance of security agencies, and the suppression of freedoms. The foreign policy had exhausted the country with wrong decisions, including extending the term of the Lebanese President Emile Lahoud. Bashar al-Assad assured me that he would not take this decision, but after a week, he made the decision to extend it. The result was that Syria suffered significant damage due to the Syrian army’s humiliating withdrawal from Lebanon, for instance. This withdrawal was worse than the June war. It caused damage by straining relations between the Syrian and Lebanese peoples, as well as the isolation and pressures that came with it. I also spoke in detail about the wrong foreign policy pursued by Bashar al-Assad’s leadership because it stems from ignorance of the international and regional situation, and from arrogance, stupidity, and a lack of knowledge about what is happening in the country or around the country.

Do you consider that Bashar al-Assad was qualified to assume power in Syria?

The experience after five years has proven that he was not qualified.

Will you return to Syria?

I will return to Syria in order to…

What message do you personally send to Bashar al-Assad through our radio?

The message I send to him, first and foremost, is to step aside, to allow the opportunity for the formation of a national unity government to manage the country, to establish a new constitution for the country that grants parties the right to operate, to declare the abolition of the emergency law, to ensure public and individual freedoms, to end political isolation, and to facilitate the return of tens of thousands of Syrians abroad to their homeland.

And are you prepared to lead this government?

I am not seeking to take on a role. I am seeking to find a way out for Syria from this dark tunnel it is going through.

Have you received direct or indirect threats?

No, but my knowledge of the sick nature of the leadership in Damascus, their ease with killing, committing crimes, making arrests, and their propensity for injustice has led me to believe that I am on the list of targets they seek to reach.

Is there any knowledge or connection of Bashar al-Assad, as a politician, to security files such as the assassination of Hariri when he was the head of state?

I spoke about facts. The determination of guilt lies with the investigation committee. It’s my personal conviction, yes, he is involved.